Champion the people’s constitution, true federalism, Akande urges Tinubu

L-R: Laolu Akande and President Bola Tinubu (FILE PHOTOS)

By Emmanuel Babafemi

• Condemns killing of soldiers in Delta

Former Presidential aide and veteran journalist, Laolu Akande, has urged President Bola Tinubu to take a decisive stance in championing the cause for a true people’s constitution in Nigeria, a new ground norm exemplifying principles of federalism and the devolution of powers.

Akande made the call on Friday, March 22, speaking on Channels TV, as he anchored another session of the popular TV talk show, ‘Inside Sources with LaoluAkande.’

He spoke at the opening segment of the programme tagged “My Take,” making a fervent plea for transformative governance reform, resonating with urgency and a vision for a better future for Nigeria.

Against the backdrop of escalating violence and killings in Nigeria, Akande emphasized the pressing need for constitutional reform and justice.

Expressing his condemnation of the recent killing of Nigerian soldiers in the Okuoma community of Delta State, he described it as a “barbaric act, which assaults us all as a people and it is completely unacceptable.”

He said the perpetrators should be properly punished, while emphasizing the need to protect innocent citizens in the affected community.

Akande warned against any escalation, saying, “More importantly, let’s do everything possible to honour the memories of all the 17 gallant officers who died in the line of duty.”

Then he moved on to the issue of a new constitution, highlighting the importance of a people’s constitution that is freely negotiated by the nationalities in the country, arguing that the current constitution, which was an imposition of the military, does not adequately address the needs and aspirations of Nigerians.

“We want to join our voices to those yearning for a true Nigerian Constitution, the people’s constitution. In the last 25 years of this civilian rule, we have depended on a constitution that was clearly an imposition of the military. Nigeria now needs a constitution that is freely negotiated by the nationalities in this country.

“People have said the 1999 Constitution is 90 per cent of the 1979 Constitution and all that, but clearly, the time has come for us as a people, to negotiate a true people’s constitution, one that is really negotiated by ‘We the people, ourselves,'” Akande declared.

He stressed the need for true federalism, which allows federating units to develop at their own pace and called for the inclusion of provisions for state police, devolution of powers, and equitable negotiation of resource control in the new constitution.

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“The overriding element that must be in that constitution is the enforcement of true federalism, that is, federating units must be free to develop at their own pace. This over-centralisation that has continued since the incursion of military rule, even through democratic, civilian regime, has to end,” Akande said.

In his charge, Akande also sought a fundamental shift in Nigeria’s governance paradigm, proposing a transition from the presidential to the parliamentary system, extolling the virtues of increased transparency and direct accountability to citizens.

He advanced the protection of fundamental rights as a cornerstone for a true constitution, as he proposed reforms, advocating for the inclusion of a bill of rights in the new constitution, and emphasized the need for enforceable protections for citizens’ rights to life, health, education, and other liberties.

“In my view, that new constitution should adopt a parliamentary system of government. That system is useful because, not only is it cheaper than the current presidential system which is unreasonably expensive, but a parliamentary system also promotes accountability, and it enhances transparency.

“Under a parliamentary system there is no hiding place away from the people for the Head of Government, who must confront the major issues of the day, as he or she sits in parliament on a regular basis and answer questions,” Akande said.

He argued that “We need a head of government who will have answer to Nigerians publicly and regularly about the problems of the day. It can be very transformative in my view.

“Whereas in a presidential system, the President can be cocooned away, sending out aides to deal with the major issues of the day in the public. That has not helped us in the last 25 years where Presidents behave as if it’s a favour to answer questions publicly.”

“We can still have a ceremonial President who will be the one to convoke the parliament and that office will remain as a symbol of our national unity,” he said

Akande, however, directed a poignant challenge to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, urging him, who was an active participant in the quest for true federalism in the past, to champion the cause of a people’s constitution.

He noted that Tinubu had previously taken the Federal Government to court on issues of devolution of power and had won, calling on him to make it his lifelong mission to deliver a true people’s constitution to the Nigerian people, which would secure his place in history.

He said, “We all know that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu was an active participant in the quest for true federalism and he was one of the leading advocates for a sovereign national conference.

“When he was governor, he and his Attorney-General took the Federal Government to court, all the way to the Supreme Court, on the issues of devolution of power. For instance, the right of a state to create local governments and he won.”

“So, he now has the opportunity to make a true people’s constitution happen in that same spirit. When he declared his interest to run for President, he said it was his lifelong ambition to be President. That has happened.

“Now, it should be his lifelong mission to ensure that he delivers to the Nigerian people, a true people’s constitution. If he does this, he will easily write his name in gold,” Akande concluded.